Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sauce it Up Recipe #1: Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

I don't drink alcohol (thank you allergies!) but I do seem to get a lot of bottles of wine for Christmas.   Either I'm that good at feigning "happily tipsy" or I have a lot of friends that like to partake of good wine.  But just because I can't drink wine doesn't mean that I can't enjoy it.  Leave it to me to find a way to eat it.  One of my favorite things to do with wine (apart from braising with it) is turning it into a beautiful sauce.

A few years ago, when my husband and I began to brave the task of cooking our own pork belly, we decided to dress up our dish with a cherry red wine sauce.  I have a cooking reputation to protect and, if all goes bad, an unsuccessful belly can be camouflaged with a pretty sauce.  The fact that a nice tart wine sauce does a great job of cutting the fattiness of a belly is just a bonus.  Back then, both pork belly and red wine sauce were new to our repertoire, so a lot of Internet research ensued until I cobbled a recipe that I could confidently serve.  But fresh cherries are not available year round; peak season is during the summer. And that jarred maraschino variety is not a viable substitute.  Trust me on that one.  So, what's a sauce starved gal to do during the holidays?

That's when Thanksgiving came to the rescue.  Every Thanksgiving, I make a to-die-for cornbread stuffing that mandatorily incorporates that ever ubiquitous holiday fruit - cranberry.  This means that come mid-November my pantry is well stocked with a supply of dried organic cranberries.  As I stood before the pantry this past Christmas Eve contemplating a dinner with a cherry-less sauce, my eyes led me straight to the answer.  I don't know why I hadn't thought about it before, but this Christmas the pairing of cranberries and red wine just seemed so obvious ... and perfect, since I had forgotten to buy fresh cranberries for my traditional cranberry sauce.   This result was so good that I am tempted to shelve the cherry version of the recipe permanently ... or at least for a good long while.

Not being one to keep a good thing to myself, I'm now sharing my sauce with you for your epicurean enjoyment ... and in time for me to pair it with a nicely seared piece of flank steak for dinner.  Enjoy it, because I know I will!

Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, rough diced
1/2 large sweet or Vidalia onion, rough diced
2-3 ribs of celery, rough diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 c. red wine
1/2 tsp black peppercorn
1 lg bay leaf 
1 1/2 c dried cranberries
1 tbsp flour or cornstarch

Add 1 tbsp butter and olive oil to a sauce pan over medium heat.  (Keep the other tbsp of butter out at room temperature so it can soften.)  When butter is just melted, stir briefly and add your mire poix (which is just the fancy French way of saying "carrots, onions and celery") and garlic.  (Sorry for the Fancy Nancy reference but I just couldn't help myself.)  Stir the vegetables occasionally and allow them to sweat.  When your veggies soft and onions translucent, add the red wine, peppercorns and bay leaf.  Stir occasionally.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.   When simmered through, strain solids out of the sauce being sure to catch the liquid in a second saucepan.   Place the second saucepan of reserved liquid over medium-low heat.   Add dried cranberries to saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes.  Separately mix your reserved tbsp of butter with flour.  When flour and butter are well incorporated, add the butter mixture to the saucepan and stir to incorporate.  Allow the sauce to reduce and thicken until you reach your desired consistency.  Keep warm for service.

Now I typically make my red wine sauces with Cabernet Sauvignon; that's just the variety of red wine I prefer to cook with.  But, I've also made this sauce with Merlot and Pinot Noir (not mixed together of course).  Each version has been satisfactorily pleasing.  But if you are adventurous enough to try this with a Syrah, then by all means let me know how it turns out and comment below!

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